A Guide to the Cumberland County (Va.) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1808-1939 Cumberland County (Va.) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1808-1939 0007315554

A Guide to the Cumberland County (Va.) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1808-1939

A Collection in
the Library of Virginia
Barcode number: 0007315554


Library of Virginia

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© 2012 By The Library of Virginia. All Rights Reserved.

Processed by: Ed Jordan

The Library of Virginia
Barcode numbers
Cumberland County (Va.) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1808-1939
Physical Characteristics
.35 cu. ft. (1 box)
Cumberland County (Va.) Circuit Court
Library of Virginia

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

There are no restrictions.

Use Restrictions

There are no restrictions.

Preferred Citation

Cumberland County (Va.) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1808-1939. Local government records collection, Cumberland County Court Records. The Library of Virginia, Richmond, VA 23219.

Acquisition Information

These items came to the Library of Virginia in shipments of court records from Cumberland County.

Historical Information

Cumberland County was named for William Augustus, duke of Cumberland , third son of King George II. It was formed from Goochland County in 1749.

The separate office of coroner appeared in Virginia about 1660. The judicial duty of the office is to hold inquisitions in cases when persons meet sudden, violent, unnatural or suspicious death, or death without medical attendance. The coroner would summon a jury to assist him in determining cause of death. Prior to November 1877, the jurors numbered twelve. Between November 1877 and March 1926, the jurors numbered six. The jury viewed the body of the deceased and heard the testimony of witnesses. The coroner was required to write down witness testimony. After seeing and hearing the evidence, the jury delivered in writing to the coroner their conclusion concerning cause of death referred to as the inquisition. After March 1926, only the coroner determined cause of death. He could require physicians to assist him with determing cause of death. If a criminal act was determined to be the cause of death, the coroner was to deliver the guilty person to the sheriff and the coroners' inquests would be used as evidence in the criminal trial.

Scope and Content

Cumberland County (Va) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1808-1939, are investigations into the deaths of individuals who died by a sudden, violent, unnatural or suspicious manner, or died without medical attendance. Causes of death found in coroners' inquisitions include murder, infanticide, suicide, domestic violence, exposure to elements, drownings, train accidents, automobile accidents, and natural causes, or as commonly referred to in the 19th century, visitation by God. Documents commonly found in coroners' inquests include the inquisition, depositions, and summons. Criminal papers such as recognizance bonds can be found in coroner inquisitions. Information found in the inquisition include the name of the coroner, the names of the jurors, the name and age of the deceased if known, gender and race of the deceased, and when, how, and by what means the deceased came to his or her death. If the deceased was African American, the inquest would identify the deceased as a slave or free person if known. If the deceased was a slave, the inquest would include, if known, the name of the slaveowner and the slaveowner's residence. Information found in the depositions include the name of the deponent and his or her account of the circumstances that led to the death of the deceased. Slaves were deponents in coroner investigations.


Chronological by date coroner filed inquisition in the court.

Index Terms

    Corporate Names:

  • Cumberland County (Va.) Circuit Court
  • Subjects:

  • African Americans--History
  • Coroners--Virginia--Cumberland County
  • Death--Causes--Virginia--Cumberland County
  • Infanticide--Virginia--Cumberland County
  • Murder victims--Virginia--Cumberland County
  • Murder--Investigation--Virginia--Cumberland County
  • Slaveholders--Virginia--Cumberland County
  • Slaves--Virginia--Cumberland County
  • Suicide--Virginia--Cumberland County
  • Women--Virginia--Cumberland County
  • Geographical Names:

  • Cumberland County (Va.)--History
  • Genre and Form Terms:

  • Death records--Virginia--Cumberland County
  • Local government records--Virginia--Cumberland County
  • Reports--Virginia--Cumberland County

Selected Coroners' Inquisitions of Interest

1818 January, Death of Joseph, a slave:

Died, apparently, from a kick to the belly in a boxing match.

1824 February 23, Death of Joe, a slave:

Joe was the property of Catharin Lipscomb, a free woman of color. He died by "stragling off and freezing to death."

1832 February 27, Death of Marinda, a slave:

Suicide. Hung herself with a silk handkerchief from the bough of a pine tree.

1861 December 13, Death of Mack, a slave:

Died from the effects of being beaten with a shingle by his owner, Thomas W. Price.

1867 August 26, Death of Richard S. Simpson, a child:

The body of Simpson was examined by two doctors who were initially unable to agree on the cause of death. One believed Simpson was poisoned, the other did not. Eventually both doctors agreed that the child died of natural causes.

1884 October, Death of Jordan Cosby:

Died after accidentally being shot in the head by James W. Duncan who mistook Cosby for a wild turkey.